at the expense of the public interest

The agreements between the tax administration and the workers unions continue to favour certain interests

20 / Oct

You will no doubt remember the controversial plan for the intensification of controls by the tax inspectorate (Plan de Intensificación de Actuaciones de la Inspección de Hacienda or the PIA agreement) until 2022 and the discontent it caused by offering a €100 million bonus to its officials in exchange for collecting €13.5 billion in tax fraud.

You will also remember the dissatisfaction of the unions participating in the collective bargaining over the refusal of the tax authority, la Agencia estatal de la administración tributaria (AEAT), to communicate the criteria for awarding these incentives and, the rulings of the Supreme Court ordering their disclosure.

Unfortunately, this does not completely solve the problem and we explain why not.

Agreements such as the PIA generate an excessive tax burden for the taxpayer who is forced to pay high amounts of money to cover the performance fee of some public servants.

The PIA agreement is the result of collective bargaining between the AEAT and trade union organisations on agreeing on the criteria for the provision of additional capacity intended to prevent and combat customs and tax fraud.

Despite the above, it should not be forgotten that AEAT officials work with the money of all taxpayers for whom the bonus offered is alarmingly high and represents an overreach of the administration in tax matters.

In principle, taxation is governed by principles of fiscal justice such as economic capacity, proportionality, progressivity and the principle of non-confiscation, since payment of taxes involves interference in property rights. Therefore, there should be no compensation or bonus attached to the amounts collected and penalties imposed in tax control operations.

The lack of transparency of these agreements is reflected in the behaviour of officials. They apply sanctions regardless of the taxpayer’s offence, and also compete with each other to show who collects the most and in case of exceeding the target amount to claim the bonus established by the arrangement.

The legitimacy of the agreement has also been questioned by the European Court of Justice, which said the following:

“Member States must use means which enable the objective pursued by national law to be attained effectively (…). Accordingly, it is legitimate for the measures adopted by the Member States, to aim to protect the rights of the treasury as effectively as possible, but they must not go beyond what is necessary for that purpose”.

Therefore, the legality of such agreements, their ultimate purpose and their application in practice is yet to be tested. The fact that such agreements are the result of collective bargaining does not mean that it is an alliance that serves the public interest, let alone that it is legal or corresponds to fair tax collection.

Moreover, it is clear that increased collection does not necessarily mean fighting and preventing customs fraud, as the press and the government want to make it appear, by showing voluminous figures just to boast of alleged successes and results.

Camila Lizarazo González